As the Bills put a wrap on their mandatory minicamp Thursday and their spring practices head coach Doug Marrone was generally pleased with the progress his team has made. The coaching staff gave the players a lot of material to digest and implement on the practice field. On the whole Marrone and his assistants felt they absorbed and executed the new schemes relatively well.
"I'm very pleased with the amount of work that we got done," Marrone said. "We've reached our goal as far as what we wanted to get in. We've reached our goal as far as teaching the players what our tempo is, how we want to practice. They've responded in a professional way, which is greatly appreciated by myself and the staff. We're excited. That's how it should be."
The players have bought into the plan and approach Marrone and his staff have taken, and the veterans believe it's led to the best camaraderie on the roster that they can remember.
"The one thing that has remained the same and consistent is that energy level. The tempo of everything," Scott told Buffalobills.com. "I don't like to get too excited because it's still early. But there's just this different feeling in the air this year. Guys are here, the attendance rate is off the charts this year. We're just really excited and as we go into this next phase."
At this point the team has yet to reach the refinement stage of what they've installed. That will take place at training camp according to Marrone.
"We're looking to make sure that we're not making mistakes and we're putting the players in the best situation. I think that's the first thing," he said. "All three systems do that. We're looking to see where we can put our players so they can be most successful. We went in thinking about the personnel and we went in thinking about putting things in that fit. Now it's a library of offense, defense and special teams. I think we still keep that same type of foundation as we go through training camp."
Offense bounces backAfter a couple of days where the defense was making plays just about each and every series, the offense had some answers on Thursday. During red zone work Kevin Kolb threw three touchdowns passes and ran for one as well on a quarterback keeper. EJ Manuel also had a touchdown pass.
Manuel also threw a nice pass between a pair of defenders to fellow rookie Brandon Kaufman down the left side of the field.
C.J. Spiller had a great looking cut back run when he darted through a hole on the back side and then accelerated between a pair of defenders who could not close in time to tap out the Pro Bowl back.
Stevie Johnson believes the offensive unit has made progress, but getting adjusted to the speed at which they run plays is what has required additional time to get to a point where they're really humming.
"We're building it right now. Chemistry is being built now," he said. "The way we're running our offense right now it's so fast and we're subbing in and out so quick I think it's probably going to take a little bit longer to get this chemistry down, but by the middle of training camp or the end of training camp we'll be good."
Tight end touchdownsOf the four touchdowns thrown by Bills quarterbacks Thursday, three of them went to tight ends. Mike Caussin made a quality over the shoulder grab in the left corner of the end zone for a touchdown on a pass from Kolb.
Rookie Chris Gragg scored on the same exact play a short time later. He also scored on a quick hitter over the middle on a pass from Manuel for his second scoring play.
Although it's widely expected that Scott Chandler will not have any restrictions at training camp coming off ACL surgery, Caussin and Gragg have shown there's some receiving talent to fall back on at the position.
Caussin and Gragg have been the top two tight ends in the rotation with Chandler still not doing team work and Lee Smith still sidelined.
Duke on the moveOn Wednesday Duke Williams got the opportunity to play safety with the starting unit. On Thursday he was lining up at cornerback with that position shorthanded due to injury with Ron Brooks, Crezdon Butler and Justin Rogers all sidelined. Williams did not look out of place thanks to his exposure to several positions during his college career at Nevada.
"I did a lot. I played corner, nickel, safety, and dime and everything," Williams told Buffalobills.com. "It was a lot of mixed packages, similar to here. I have the ability to play a lot of parts in this defense, especially at defensive back. Coach just wanted to try me out at corner and see how I looked."
Williams' best play was when he knocked a ball away from the hands of T.J. Graham on a deep ball down the right sideline. With 4.48 speed, the Bills drafted Williams with the thought that he could be more than just a safety in Mike Pettine's multiple scheme.
Left guard updateThrough the three-day minicamp it was essentially a two-man competition at left guard. Colin Brown got most of the reps at left guard with the starting unit the first two days, but on Thursday he and Doug Legursky were splitting first team reps as they alternated series with each other during the team segments of practice.
"I'm just trying to get better every day and we'll see where it plays out at the end of camp," said Brown.
"I've got a lot of things to work on. I'll just play it one play at a time."
Lindell accurate, Hopkins has legThe competition for the kicking job is certainly not the most intriguing heading into Bills training camp, but Lindell will be facing the stiffest competition he's had during his time in a Buffalo uniform in sixth-round pick Dustin Hopkins.
In practice Thursday they each had an opportunity to kick field goals from distances ranging from 34 to 51 yards. Lindell was a perfect 7-for-7 on his attempts with a long of 49 yards. Hopkins was 5-for-7 on his kicks. He missed from 37 yards to the left and from 50 yards to the right.
Through all the spring practices Lindell has been the more accurate kicker. Where Hopkins has an edge is on kickoffs where his leg is simply stronger.
Lindell knows despite a solid showing on field goals that the competition has just begun.
"It's certainly the first step," Lindell told Buffalobills.com. "It's going to continue in, well, we take a break, so, the evaluation period goes away for a few weeks, but you still have to get ready for phase two."
ScheduleThe Bills are now off for six weeks before they must report to training camp on July 28th. The first practice is scheduled for the night of the 28th.
"We're leaving here knowing that we have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but it's also hard work that we're looking forward to," Marrone said.
Buffalobills.com has the complete training camp schedule.